7 Fun Alternatives to the Painted Accent Wall

I was chatting with a friend about a piece I recently wrote on accent walls, and he asked, “Can you only get an accent wall using paint?” It’s a good question. And the answer is a resounding no! My definition of an accent wall is simply a wall—or part of a wall—that has an eye-catching element that makes it the focal point. It is commonly created using an interesting paint color, but that’s not the only way to get attention.

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Whether you favor a collection of multiple objects, such as shown above, or one large, bold piece, like at left, a wall populated with art is a terrific way to create a focal point.

It’s an especially smart decorating move in a space with no (or very few) windows, because you likely have a large, open expanse of wall on which to hang art, and damage to the art from UV rays is less of an issue.


Wallpaper fell out of favor a couple of decades ago but has lately been enjoying a run of popularity, especially papers that feature bold and colorful patterns or motifs.

Installing wallpaper is a bit more work—and commitment—than slapping on a couple of coats of paint, but it allows you to adorn your walls with intricate designs and patterns that would be difficult to paint yourself, or expensive to hire someone else to paint for you.


If you have interesting, oversize windows or a nice view to frame, think about adding dramatic, oversize window treatments to create a feature wall, as has been done above. Or mount a tapestry or carpet above a bed or sofa for an instant dash of color and texture, as shown at left.


Bring the outdoors in with an accent wall of greenery. Plants not only help filter the air but are also thought to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

This is an especially nice option for city dwellers who lack an outdoor hangout space. With plants, plenty of natural light and a comfortable place to sit, you can almost fake a garden. Bonus: no bugs here!


Looking for something more low-maintenance on the wall? Tile is a great choice, especially in areas that see a lot of traffic. Painted walls can get scuffed and dinged up, but tile can handle quite a bit of wear and tear without getting damaged.

Wall tile is expected in bathrooms and kitchens, but when you use it to create a focal point in less common places, such as a living room or dining room, it really stands out.

Architectural Salvage

I love decorating with salvaged materials, because not only are you giving these pieces a second life and keeping them out of the landfill, but they also add character and are likely one-of-a-kind items that you aren’t going to spot in your neighbor’s home.

Whether you favor a modern industrial look, as above, or one that oozes charm, as at left, a visit to your local antique store or architectural salvage yard might turn up a piece or pieces that you can use to create your own unique accent wall.


Using lighting to create a feature wall is a bit more complicated than, say, employing plants or colorful books, but the reward for the expense and effort is a super-dramatic design element that can be customized to your space and taste.

Whether you favor a contemporary look, such as shown above with the line of wall-washing lights illuminating translucent panels, or a charming and romantic vibe, as at left, this is an accent wall that actually gets better as day turns to night and the lights can be dimmed to create a cozy ambience.

Your turn: How have you created an accent wall that didn’t involve paint? Please share a photo in the comments section below.